Saturday, 1 February 2014
Judging Books by Their Covers - Life, Death and Vanilla Slices by Jenny Eclair
The creamy yellow cover of Life, Death and Vanilla Slices caught my eye in Waterstones, where I was meeting someone and not intending to buy a book at all.
I think it was the vanilla slice that attracted me next, and then I saw it was written by Jenny Eclair. I only knew her as a comedian on TV, and didn't know that she'd written three novels. On the cover of this one were endorsements by Jojo Moyes and Jo Brand, two of my favourite ladies, so I reckoned that it must be good. Then, turning it over to read the blurb, I noticed that the heroine was called Jean. . . I was sold, and so was the book!
Jenny has such excellent storytelling skills that you are immediately immersed in the story of the Collins family when Jean is knocked down in an accident, dropping some vanilla slices which she only buys for family celebrations. Why has she bought them? She hasn't bought any for years.
It's a story of two women: Jean, the mother, who's in a coma and is sorting through her complicated life and trying to put it in order in her mind, and Anne, her middle-aged daughter, who has come to visit her in hospital, and is reassessing her own life too.
You discover that something terrible has happened in their family, but you don't know what it is or whether it was Jean or Anne who caused the awful event.
As she looks back at her life, Jean holds back from reaching the point when this thing happened, and Anne fights to keep the dreadful secret tucked away where she has hidden it at the back of her own mind, but eventually, they both have to face up to the past.
Jenny paints equally well a picture of life in the seventies, down to the stainless steel coffee pot (which I happened to have in my cupboard for the photo!), and life for Anne in the twenty-first century with her lazy, spoilt sons and indifferent husband.
She also cleverly combines the human drama and tenderness of Jojo Moyes with the dark humour of Jo Brand.
It's an excellent book and I'm glad I was seduced by the cover: it kept me hooked until the end.
And the vanilla slice that I bought for the photo from Sainsburys? Delicious!